Friday

23rd Apr 2021

EU leaders forced to unite in new Trump reality

EU leaders pledged the need for unity and for Europe to stand on its own two feet at their meeting in Valletta on Friday (3 February), during a discussion on how to handle US president Donald Trump, whom EU council chief Donald Tusk described earlier this week as a "threat" to the EU.

Leaders emphasised the importance of the transatlantic relationship, and said they would work together with Trump on common interests, but move toward more independent European action on issues where the EU and the US administration disagree.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"We work on the basis of our shared values, [...] there are areas where we agree, like fighting international terrorism, and where we don’t agree," German chancellor Angela Merkel said after lunch, which summed up the mood toward Trump among EU leaders after a turbulent week of heavy criticism from Europe and concern over the US president's first days in office.

But Merkel said that this is an opportunity for Europe to redefine itself and become more self-reliant.

"The general debate concentrated on where we stand, we have to act together," Merkel said, adding that it could lead to boosting investment in defence capabilities in the EU but also in Germany. "We have our destiny in our own hands."

Some EU leaders heavily criticised Donald Trump's decision to ban refugees and people arriving to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Others, like Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, slammed those who criticised Trump. Before arriving at the Valletta summit, Orban said that the US has the right to decide its own border control policy, and that he is puzzled at the "neurotic European reactions" over the travel ban.

May's briefing

But behind closed doors over lunch the leaders were united, sources said.

They listened to the briefing of UK prime minister Theresa May, who has already met Trump, Merkel and French president Francois Hollande, who had phone conversations with the new US president to figure out where he stands.

According to a source, May told her fellow European leaders that she made it clear in Washington that a strong EU, a strong Europe, was good for the US.

May said Trump assured her that he was 100 percent behind Nato, the transatlantic military alliance he publicly called "obsolete".

It also dawned around the table that Trump approaches policy through funding, and while he is committed to Nato, financial contributions to the military alliance and to the United Nations could come under question in Washington.

May cautioned EU leaders, and urged them to engage constructively, as division in transatlantic relations would only embolden those who want to harm Europe.

On whether the UK can act as a bridge between the US and the EU, Tusk said that despite Britain leaving the EU, there was a spirit of solidarity among the 28 member states on Friday.

"[There was] this good and strong will to protect our unique relationship with US, the translatlantic guarantee for freedom and international order," he added.

Tusk Tower

Leaders however did not get a good sense on where Trump stands on Russia, according to another source.

"Obviously there was concern among EU leaders by some decision taken and some attitudes adopted by the US administration," Joseph Muscat, Malta's prime minister whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, said at a press conference on Friday.

He added that there was no anti-American sentiment around the table of EU leaders.

However, there was a determination not to stay silent "when principles are trampled on," he said.

EU council chief Donald Tusk earlier this week in an extraordinary letter to EU leaders called Trump one of the threats facing Europe today.

While the discussion on Trump was more pragmatic than Tusk's emotional letter, the former Polish prime minister received backing from EU leaders.

"They [leaders] called me 'our Donald'," he said, referring to the US president. Muscat even joked that the new EU council building in Brussels should be renamed Tusk Tower, to replicate the Trump Tower in New York.

EU leaders to discuss migration, in Trump's shadow

New US president Trump overshadows the Malta summit of EU leaders on Friday, as they discuss the bloc's future amid new geopolitical realities, and step up efforts to stop migration via Libya from North African countries.

EU leaders must stand up to Trump, say MEPs

MEPs have urged the EU to stand up for European values, starting with rejecting Trump's presumed choice for US ambassador, who has stated that he wants to "tame" the bloc.

EU head calls Trump a 'threat' to Europe

Donald Tusk, the symbolic head of the EU, has described US president Donald Trump as a “threat” to Europe alongside Russia and China.

Opinion

The need for global cooperation in stopping Iran

Although Trump said he would tear up the Iran Nuclear Agreement, the new administration seems to want to work on a new policy toward Iran. Let's hope European leaders will respond in kind to this approach.

Interview

Sikorski: Let's give Trump time to be 'educated'

Former Polish foreign minister said he hoped new US president will learn how the world works and that EU leaders have "enough statesmanship" to steer Europe out of trouble.

News in Brief

  1. Putin's troops march back again from Ukraine border
  2. German business favours Greens candidate to succeed Merkel
  3. 2020 was Europe's hottest year on record: EU scientists
  4. Germany: Bosnia plan put into 'shredder of history'
  5. Czech Republic to expel more Russian diplomats
  6. Over 120 people feared dead after Libya shipwreck
  7. Biden: US will cut emissions by 50 percent by 2030
  8. Golden backdoor to EU exposed in Malta

EU adds new 'dark red' zone to travel-restrictions map

The European Commission has proposed additional measures to limit non-essential travel within and to the European Union - amid fears over more transmissible mutations triggering a new surge in cases across the bloc.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. EU mulls legal action against AstraZeneca over shortfalls
  2. Palestinian PM demands EU pressure Israel on elections
  3. New Bauhaus contest kicks off to inspire green projects
  4. Albania's election: what is at stake?
  5. Football's 'Super League' - an own-goal for EU soft power
  6. Chemical-weapons vote reveals 'friends of Syria' axis
  7. Russia should pay 'costs' for Czech attack, US says
  8. Merkel 'open' to EU treaty change on health

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us